Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lady Fortescue, A Woman Ahead Of Her Time

Every so often I get hold of a book that captivates me and takes me over, this recently occurred with "There's Rosemary There's Rue".

It's the autobiography of Winifred Fortescue (nee Beech), first published in 1939.  Born in 1888 the third child of a country rector, she went on to become an actress, interior decorator and fashion designer under the name of CINTRA, writer, and just after the second world war, a philanthropist.  All this in the early part of the twentieth century, she was an amazing woman and way ahead of her time.

In 1914 she married John Fortescue the Kings librarian and archivist, he was 28 years her senior but despite the age difference it was a very happy marriage and he supported her in all her ventures.

She wrote seven books in total and the first one of these was "Perfume from Provence" (published in 1935) about her experiences of moving, renovating a house and living in Provence, she was probably the first writer of this genre.

Sadly most of her books are currently out of print, but still available via Amazon through specialist booksellers.

If you want to know more about Lady Fortescue go here I found this website to be a true companion when reading TRTR. as it has lots of photographs of Lady Fortescue at different ages and photographs of all the existing properties she lived in, it really brought her book to life.

I cannot resist including this rondeau which John Fortescue wrote for CINTRA'S Invitations for her Autumn season fashion show, held in her garden, in Hampstead on a midsummers night.


"In Cintra's garden sweet the roses blow,
And rest is there and peace; while far below,
Like droning of five million human flies,
The hum of distant London swells and dies
And dies and swells, in ceaseless ebb and flow-
The hum of men who hurry to and fro
And seek and seek-for what they hardly know,
But there is calm 'neath silent summer skies
In Cintra's garden.

"There lanterns dim, 'mid music soft and low,
Shall guide the living flowers as they go
Arrayed in Cintra's lovliest draperies,
Till dazzling light reveal them to your eyes.
Come, gentles, see what one fair night can show
In Cintra's garden"


9 comments:

  1. I had never heard of her. Sounds like a fantastic lady. I am going to see if they have any of her books at my library. Merci for the education!
    P.s. Love the name Winifred Fortescue!!! That is a name that guarantees an interesting life.

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  2. Just testing to comprehend if your annotation fuctinon works, abundance doesnt!

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  3. Thanks Belette for your comment, I hope you do manage to find one of her books, I am sure you will enjoy them.

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  4. Hello Anonymous, I wonder if you are The Anonymous who posted the very encouraging comment on the Crusoe chicken rustling post, if you are, apologies for not responding sooner, please forgive my bad manners, I am still feeling my way round blog etiquette. Nothing wrong with abundance, please appreciate I am still in the experimental stage.

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  5. I loved Perfume from Provence, then Rosie at 'A Year down the Line' offered to lend me her other books.
    I managed to find most of them and they are a real joy...but special thanks to Rosie for the help.

    I think she beats Peter Mayle into a cocked hat...but then so do most things.

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  6. Hello Fly, apologies, I have just noticed your comment, I couldn't agree more, regarding Peter Mayle, I have read his books, but I find them rather simplistic, if that is the right word, I am sure you know what I mean.

    I find it amusing that people think he was the first person to write about Provence, and put it on the map. Bla bla bla.

    Another writer I love is Dirk Bogarde, especially his book, a short walk from Harrods, which moves me to tears.

    He also wrote it pre Peter Mayle.
    XX

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  7. I recently found a copy of Mountain Madness by Lady Fortescue on the charity book shelf in my local super market. I loved it instantly so to find others who do too is great. A real treasure. I'll now look up her other titles. As you say a woman ahead of her time, yet also lots of insight to how her class lived. She had both privilege and independence and seemed to make use of both thoughtfully.

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  8. I recently found a copy of Mountain Madness by Lady Fortescue on the charity book shelf in my local super market. I loved it instantly so to find others who do too is great. A real treasure. I'll now look up her other titles. As you say a woman ahead of her time, yet also lots of insight to how her class lived. She had both privilege and independence and seemed to make use of both thoughtfully.

    ReplyDelete

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